Terming it “innovation for destruction”, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Friday hit out at the government’s decision to unify all Railway services into a single cadre and to merge the Railway Budget with the General Budget.
Speaking at the launch of the book ‘Railwayman: An Engineer’s Memoir’ by former Railway Board Member RR Jaruhar, Sinha said “an engineer or even a doctor or a CA can become a manager but a generalist cannot become an engineer, CA, or a doctor.” Railway Board chairman VK Yadav was also present at the event.
Earlier this year, the Union Cabinet decided to merge the five Indian Railway engineering services and three civil services cadres into the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) leading to protests from civil servants. It also decided to trim the size of the Railway Board from nine to just five members, including the chairman.
“There are some specialisations which must exist; so maybe at a later stage, after couple of decades of service, you create a cadre of senior managers. But if the cadres are merged to begin with, then how will a traffic man do an engineers job?” he asked, adding that disruptions, innovation and change must be thought through.
He remarked that he preferred the system of a separate Rail Budget. “As a former finance minister, I would say that I would prefer to go back to the older system where the Railways had their own budget rather than being merged with the General Budget,” he said as the audience, mostly retired and serving bureaucrats of the Railways, applauded.
He noted that were “some demands” made to decouple the budgets in the discussions in the Lok Sabha on Thursday. “Earlier, Parliament used to get two to three days to discuss the Rail Budget, which is now one of the departmental or ministry budgets,” he said, adding that there should not be change for the sake of change and innovation for destruction.
Earlier, defending the decision to merge the cadres, Yadav said the move would produce the “best quality of managers and best quality of technical experts.”
The present system is not able to produce a good manager and a good technical expert, Yadav said adding that this was why the Railways was unable to implement its own vision of growth and modernisation, despite chalking out a vision a decade ago. “That is why the government is trying change the structure. I know, in such a huge organisation, when you are going for a change, there has to be resistance,” Yadav added.
He cited the experience of implementing the computerized Passenger Reservation System in 1989-90 and said the move had met resistance.
“Everybody was opposing. They were saying jobs will go. But that was implemented. Today, when we look back, if that was not implemented, the reservation system would have collapsed. Today, we are again at such a crossroads. Today, we need to change our organisational structure to produce the best managers…” he said.